Bits & Bytes

The BitTitan Blog for Service Providers

08/01/2023
DS-1227-BIT-EDUSeparatingUserstoDifferentTenants-JH

EDU: When it Makes Sense to Separate Cloud Tenants

Migration activity at colleges and universities has trended toward consolidating tenants in the cloud. These efforts are helping institutions decrease costs, optimize resources, and scale with greater flexibility. In the cloud, collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams have modernized the educational experience and expanded learning opportunities. Students, researchers, and faculty have quickly adopted new ways to engage in discussion, problem solving, and scholarship.

The free flow of ideas is a time-honored campus tradition. But like any technology, collaboration platforms can also be used in ways that are inappropriate and potentially risky for the institution. Some of these activities, like bullying, posting offensive content, or disruptive behavior, will need to be mitigated by strong governance. It’s always going to be important to clearly communicate policies and expectations that promote responsible use of all available tools.

A little distance can be a good thing

There are times when different demographics prefer different tools. Many current students have grown up using Google products and prefer them to their Microsoft counterparts. It is within the university’s reasoning that students are provided a Google tenant while the faculty is more comfortable with M365.

A case can be made to divide a tenant into two or more separate tenants. This is sometimes a solution when a college or university is seeing a disruption with collaboration platforms, including a bit too much intermingling between instructors and students. Increased familiarity between faculty and students can lead to positive educational outcomes, but colleges still have a responsibility to avoid inappropriate entanglements.

Without clear delineation, Teams channels intended for academic use can also be hijacked for unauthorized purposes like sharing personal content or organizing social gatherings. And, research institutions are looking at isolating platforms in order to protect proprietary data and intellectual property.

Separating users into different cloud tenants can help address a number of potential issues:

Enforcing access control: So users from one tenant won’t have direct access to resources or data in another tenant.

Monitoring: Separate tenants make it easier to detect and respond to policy violations.

Tenant-level policies: Enforcing specific rules tailored to each group’s needs. For example, it may be appropriate to have tighter controls in student tenants.

Data separation: Separate Teams instances have separate channels, conversations, and files so inappropriate behavior can more easily be contained.

Compliance: If groups or departments are governed by specific privacy laws or data protection regulations based on region or industry, separate tenants can help ensure compliance.

No need for separation anxiety

In practice, separating tenants looks very much like a divestiture in which an organization spins off a business unit into a separate entity. In an educational institution, the separate tenants typically stay under the same roof. Still, it’s important to carefully map out an end-to-end strategy that includes discovery, migration planning, user education, and stakeholder communications.

BitTitan has plenty of guidance available for migration planning, including this white paper on Navigating Divestiture Migrations. Many colleges and universities choose to work with Managed Service Providers (MSPs) when facing a complex migration. Separating tenants can often fit into the complex category. Users will understandably want to be assured that they’ll have the same functionality and data access on both sides of a migration. Any confusion is likely to cause frustration that can ripple across the campus.

MigrationWiz is the choice of educational institutions worldwide for migrating to the cloud and for consolidating or separating tenants. Contact us to learn which MigrationWiz licenses will streamline your migration, and to discover our low education pricing.

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